Lawsuit: Texas school districts ask court to temporarily stop new A-F ratings

Del Valle, TEXAS (KXAN) — Del Valle Independent School District and six other districts are suing the head of the Texas Education Agency over the agency’s decision to change how the state grades schools. 

The lawsuit against Education Commissioner Mike Morath alleges the changes will arbitrarily lower performance ratings for many school districts and individual schools even if their performance improved. 

The districts are asking a judge to temporarily stop the state from issuing ratings based on the new methods. 

“A school district that should receive an A rating for this component based on the 10 current measures, methods, and procedures could receive a D rating for this component even if performance has improved,” the lawsuit stated, referring to the College, Career and Military Readiness part of the accountability rating. 

The lawsuit also alleges the TEA did not give the legally required notice to school districts of the changes. The school districts argue the agency should have provided the details of the changes to the A-F rating method at the start of the 2022-23 school year. 

TEA officials said the agency could not comment on pending litigation. But, in an overview of the changes posted to the agency’s website, it said, “The refreshed A-F system will make adjustments to better reflect the three objectives of the system: rigor for students, fairness for districts and campuses, and transparency for parents and the public.”

The agency also addressed the timing of the changes saying, “After five years of the same criteria and a global pandemic, it is necessary to refresh the A-F system to ensure Texas remains a national leader in preparing students for success.”

The new 2023 A-F ratings are set to be released to the school districts on Sept. 26 and to the public on Sept. 28. The scores will be available before what’s expected to be another special session focusing on education in October. 

Del Valle ISD Superintendent Dr. Annette Tielle told families and staff in early August its school board unanimously voted to join the lawsuit. 

“We are disappointed that the Texas Education Agency is using this change in the accountability system to paint a picture that public schools, including Del Valle ISD, are failing. While we are focusing on your children’s success, we are being pulled into a political agenda,” Supt. Annette Tielle said in a letter to parents. 

More than 200 school districts wrote a letter to Commissioner Morath in March requesting the delay of the A-F accountability changes, including Austin ISD and several other central Texas school districts.  

“The A-F system was designed to make it easier for the public to understand how schools are truly performing. But increasing the cut score for A for CCMR by almost 47% in a single year will create the misconception that high-performing schools are drastically declining,” the letter stated.

A bipartisan group of 26 lawmakers also sent a letter to Commissioner Morath in May asking him to reconsider the changes.

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